November is National Adoption Month. For the last nineteen yearsI have the right to special protection and help.[3], this month has been a time to celebrate families who have adopted children in need of forever families and to raise awareness about the foster children still waiting to find permanent homes. Currently, there are 108,000 foster youth waiting to be adopted in the child welfare system. This year, National Adoption Month is focusing on the needs of older youth in care. These children are especially likely to ageout of foster care without finding a family, and face unique barriers to success. In fact, nearly 10% of children waiting to be adopted are between the ages of 15 and 18.

The needs of older youth in foster care have not gone unnoticed. This past year, Congress has introduced several pieces of legislation to improve outcomes for adopted children and the families that adopt them. As advocates, we’d like to use this month as an opportunity to discuss three pieces of legislation that aim to remove barriers to adoption and support youth who have been adopted.

One of the biggest challenges to adoption can be the cost. Nearly half of the families adopting from foster care are at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Under current law, adopting families must have a federal income tax liability to benefit from the tax credit. This means that low-income families receive no benefit at all since they do not have a tax liability that can reflect the benefit.. In April, Senators Blunt and Casey introduced the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2015 (S.950) to make the adoption tax credit a refund instead of a benefit. Representatives Black, Davis, McDermott, and Franks have introduced a companion bill in the House. Both bills make adoption affordable by making the adoption tax credit fully refundable, thereby making adoption possible for families of all economic classes.

Another barrier to adoption are policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status in public adoption and foster care, both against potential parents, as well as the youth in care. Senator Kristen Gillibrand has introduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S. 1382) which creates a federal standard of nondiscrimination that would prohibit such practices.

Senator Patty Murray also introduced the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act of 2015 (S. 2267) which makes it easier for youth who have been adopted or in foster care to go to college. This bill, in part, clarifies that the definition of an independent student for the purpose of financial aid includes youth who were in foster care 13 or older, even if they were adopted. This bill, if passed, will allow more adopted children to attend college without placing a significant burden on their families.

We think recognition by Congress of the issues adopted children and families face is a promising step. National Adoption Month offers an opportunity for children and families to share their stories and offer perspectives on the journey they took to finding and forming forever families.

Tweet this now: November is #NationalAdoptionMonth @Voice4_Adoption

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